THE Palace and its allies have been lobbying to have President Benigno Aquino III nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, despite recent concerns raised by the European Union and the United Nations about torture, summary executions and human rights abuses under his administration, militant groups said Sunday.
Human rights and militant groups immediately objected to the nomination, saying the President was “highly unqualified” and that the mere suggestion was “laughable,” given that there were other world leaders more deserving of the award. They also vowed to torpedo the President’s nomination.
“Aquino is highly unqualified for such an award. The Nobel Peace Prize would hit a new low with the nomination of Aquino. Human rights violations under Aquino’s four-year-old regime include the militarization of peasant communities, 192 cases of extrajudicial killing, 21 cases of enforced disappearances and numerous illegal arrests, along with 400 political prisoners,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes.
Reyes said they received “credible information” last week that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process headed by Secretary Teresita Deles was lobbying in Norway to get President Aquino nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize so the President could play up an “accomplishment” during his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address.
Reyes said Deles aggressively pitched the “historic Bangsamoro peace deal.”
Deles denied lobbying for the nomination, but a Palace spokesman admitted that “some groups” might be seeking it.
A press release from her office also showed that Deles had talked up the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front at a conference in Oslo last week, where she attributed “the historic accord” to “the proactive leadership and commitment” of President Aquino.
But Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said they opposed the nomination, saying the situation in the Philippines was “far from peaceful” because of the policies implemented by the President.
“We have received reports that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has actively lobbied for President Aquino to get the award and may have convinced foreign organizations to nominate President Aquino,” said Colmenares, also House senior deputy minority leader.
Reyes said while in Norway purportedly to attend a peace conference, Deles had lobbied to have a Norwegian parliamentary Green Party nominate President Aquino.
Reyes said they would provide the Green Party with pertinent documents to appraise it of the real situation in the Philippines under Aquino.
In a phone interview, Deles said no representative from the Green Party was present at the Oslo conference that she attended.
“I don’t know where that group (Bayan) got its information, but obviously they have it all wrong,” she said.
“I didn’t even know you could lobby for a Nobel Peace Prize,” she added.
In the Palace, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said it was possible that some groups wanted to nominate the President for the Peace Prize for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, but denied the government was behind the effort.
“During the Oslo conference, Secretary Deles had occasion to meet Nobel Peace Prize winners, but there are no lobbying efforts,” Lacierda said in a statement Sunday.
“But please note that since Aceh [in Indonesia], there has been no significant peace accord reached. Hence, it is possible that there are groups who wish to nominate the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. But certainly, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is not lobbying for it,” Lacierda added.
But Bayan’s Reyes said even the peace pact with the MILF did not qualify the President for a Peace Prize because it offered only “a deceptive framework...under the current anti-people government.”
He added that the pact was contingent on the acts of Congress, and was still open to challenge.
The House independent minority bloc, led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, has been reminding the Palace of its promise to submit for scrutiny the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, with no success.
The Philippine Constitution Association has also come out with a study that shows the Bangsamoro peace deal was “legally infirm and thus is unconstitutional.”
Reyes said his group would also officially inform the Green Party that the UN would send its special rapporteurs to conduct a probe on the human rights situation, inaction on typhoon survivor issues and extreme poverty under Aquino.
Over the weekend, EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux called on the Aquino administration to carry out the anti-torture law, noting that Manila failed to hold those responsible for torture cases accountable.
Ledoux cited the recent incident of torture in the Philippines called the “wheel of torture” allegedly used by a Philippine National Police detention facility in Biñan, Laguna, where detainees were tortured by police.
“As it is, it seems that the organization that nominated President Aquino was misinformed on the true situation on the ground and the real effect of President Aquino’s policies on the Filipino people,” Colmenares said.
“A very glaring example is the case of Hacienda Luisita, a vast sugar plantation taken by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan from farm workers, who up till now are being harassed and killed by government forces because they are fighting for their lands,” he said.
Zarate said despite the signing of the peace accord in Mindanao, violations of human rights in the Moro communities continued, including the displacement of civilians due to military operations, and the arrests without warrant of Moros wrongly accused of being terrorists.
“The peace pact cannot just gloss over the numerous human rights violations committed against the Moro people, and would hardly be a justification for a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize,” Zarate said.
Reyes added that Aquino fostered regional instability and tension with the support of the US military pivot and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
He also accused Aquino of scuttling peace talks with the communist rebels by refusing to honor previous agreements.
The Bayan Muna lawmakers urged the international community to go to Mindanao and see the real situation and extreme suffering being endured by the displaced residents due to armed conflict.
“Let them see how hard it is to live in a tent city in Zamboanga, and the rampant human rights violations in Talaingod, among others,” Zarate said.